Author's Note, 07/02/07The earlier chapters of this story have been subjected to extensive editing and formatting clean-up since their original posting. My apologies to all of you who had to read the (in some places, very) rough version. Thanks for your patience, especially in scrolling through all those notes and thank-yous (this was written before the advent of review responses on In the interest of continuity, I haven't made any major changes to the plot as it stands, just tweaked certain elements to strengthen emerging themes and motivations, and fixing myriad technical flaws and rough prose. The first few chapters do feature some added material from the original, and chapters 7 and 8 were merged into one. Again, I apologize if this causes any confusion.
"Choices" will probably not be edited again--there are many things I might have done differently with it had I started to write it now, but I consider it a more-or-less finished product at this time. Thanks to all who have shown an interest throughout, and thanks to those who still take time to comment on an older story--I very much appreciate it.
Disclaimer: Elizabeth, Will, Jack Sparrow, and the rest of the Pirates universe is not mine. The songs that begin each chapter, also not mine...they belong to Lesley Nelson-Burns at Reviews are sources of joy and great celebration. Suggestions and criticisms are always and especially welcome.
A/N: Reviews are sources of joy and great celebration. Suggestions and criticisms are always and especially welcome.
A Note on Quotations: Each chapter will be headed by a few lines or verses from old folk songs, many of them sea shanties. The full songs and their lyrics may be found at www. contemplator. com. (Remove spaces for correct web address.)
Oh love is handsome, love is fine
and love is golden when it is new
but it grows old, and waxes cold
and fades away like morning dew...
"The Water is Wide" (17th century folk song)
Around them, a smooth black sea stretches forever, curving up and up until it becomes a deep black sky.
She's lying on a beach of fine white sand,watching the glittering stars move across that dark, incredibly wide field...their paths laid out for them, unchangeable. A bonfire flickers in her peripheral vision, causing the shadows of trees and dunes to swell and shift and sink again.
She lays her head on the shoulder of the man next to her, dizzied suddenly by the circling stars and the unsteady light of the fire.
It must have been terrible for you, being trapped on this island.
He smells like seasalt, rum, sweat, and faintly, sandalwood. The scent doesn't do much to steady her. Maybe the rising intoxication in her veins is nothing but the product of the demon rum of which she knows she's already drunk far too much; maybe it is something else. She's not at all certain; she finds she's becoming less and less certain of many things rather quickly
His drawl is a little slurred, and his mouth not an inch from her ear.
Though the company is infinitely better than last time, I assure you...
His fingers curl around her shoulder, drawing her towards him, and she is suddenly aware of how the fabric of the sleeve between his skin and hers is so very, very thin.
She turns to look at him. His eyes are unreadable and nearly black in the fickle light, and the shadows accentuate the planes of his face, the high, almost-delicate cheekbones, his slight frown, the quirk of his lips. She can hear her heartbeat speeding up, a rising roar in her ears...or perhaps it is his heart, not hers...or could that be the surf? It's just another thing of which she is no longer certain, off-balance and ready to fall, pulled in and held by those magnetic eyes. Eyes that are at that moment fixed rather hungrily on her own parted lips...
In the heart of the fire, a piece of driftwood surrenders to the heat and snaps in two, releasing a shower of sparks high into the air with a tremendous crack like a pistol shot.
She awakes with a start, and a name on her lips.
Her husband reaches over to tuck a comforting arm around her. "'S nothing," he mutters sleepily. "One've the sentries shooting a serpent, no doubt. Go back to sleep."
He rolls back over and promptly follows his own advice, as evidenced by his deep snores. But Elizabeth Turner does not find sleep so easily. She gazes at the ceiling and thanks Providence that Will must have thought she'd cried out "What was that?"
The dream is the same one she's been having off and on for months now. Not a proper dream, either, but a skewed fragment of memory, somehow infused with a weight of yearning to which it most certainly does not belong. She is very sure that in the real memory she did not want to discover what it would be like to kiss Captain Jack Sparrow.
She tosses and turns under the thin coverlet, unable to get comfortable. It's far too warm in this upstairs room anyway, and with the addition of Will's body heat in her bed she feels unbearably stifled, even in her light cotton slip. She's grown used to sleeping alone lately; Will's merchant company is growing fast, backed by her father's funds and influence, and he's been at sea for much of the spring and summer. But she had hoped her troubling dreams might cease at his return, that they were but the restless sleep-fancies of a lonely wife, the natural stirrings of a body starved for touch...
The man beside her shifts onto his back again, without waking, and she props herself on her elbow to study him. He still looks terribly young when he sleeps, and she remembers the boy pulled out of the ocean all those long years ago, laid at her feet on a ship's deck and in her life forever.
"Will," she whispers softly, knowing he does not hear her. She smiles a little, but her throat contracts, a tight ache that feels like the beginning of a sob. Or maybe she's just catching a fever. That could explain why she's so wakeful, why the sheets beneath her cling so damply to her body, why she's near to bursting with restlessness. It might even explain the dream-images still burning in her mind, despite her best intentions to excise them. She wishes it could explain why, even with her husband lying by her side, it is someone else's face she can't forget, or why she can still recall exactly the way he looked at her that night under the stars.
She mutters a most unladylike curse and rises abruptly from the bed.
I am Mrs. Will Turner, she admonishes herself fiercely. I am not ill-treated. I even married for love. My husband is a good man, and he loves me.
I should be happy.
I should not be troubled by dreams.
She crosses to the French windows that lead to the balcony and throws them open, letting in a light breeze to ruffle the lace curtains and freshen the stuffy air of the bedchamber. For a moment she pauses on the threshold, inhaling deeply; then she steps over it into the night.
She doesn't much care anymore who sees the Governor's daughter wandering about in her underclothes in the wee hours. These late-night promenades have become her habit these past few months, and to that end she's been encouraging a rumor that she sleepwalks. The iron balcony rail feels pleasantly cool against her stomach, even through the thin material of her shift, as she leans far over to stare out at the bay.
The water wrinkles only a little under the light of the waxing moon. The Turner house is situated on the cliffs overlooking Kingston Harbor, across which only a a few lamps burn fitfully in the streets of Port Royal; she can just make out the red-coated sentry on watch at the seawall of the garrison. Beyond the city, the bay opens out to the real ocean, whence she fixes her gaze, drawn by the lingering, inexplicable dream-yearning that tugs at her entire being like the outgoing tide.
And she finds herself imagining a graceful, menacing vessel sidling out from beyond the cliffs towards her, a black-sailed ship steered by a dark-eyed oddball captain with golden-brown skin, a braided beard, and a scoundrel's smile.
It's been three years, but she knows he won't have changed a bit.